Who Will Reappear? – Krista DeCamillis

by capreviewroom

 In the Skin of a Lion, written by author Michael Ondaatje, revolves around the central character Patrick Lewis. This novel focuses on the industrialization of Toronto in the 1920s, while emphasizing on many characters and their adventures. We get a chance to see the life of immigrant workers, working on the viaduct and tunnels, and the life of those who have power and control over these labourers.

The story starts off with the central character, Patrick Lewis, as a young boy living on a farm in Ontario with his father. He always watches the men working: “… he stands at the bedroom window and watches… thirty loggers, wrapped up dark, carrying axes and small packages of food which hang from their belts” (Ondaatje, 7). We then hear about the building of the bridge, and then Patrick reappears as a Searcher, looking for the very wealthy Ambrose Small. He falls in love with Small’s mistress, Clara, which only brings trouble. They end the relationship, but Patrick is feeling so distraught he finds out where Small is living, who almost kills him. We then see Patrick as a dynamiter, building tunnels, just like his father used to do. He then runs into Alice Gull, and starts a relationship with her. Alice passes away, and Patrick goes on an anger rant, blowing up a hotel, ending up in prison. He then saves the life of a fellow inmate, Caravaggio. When he is freed from prison, he reunites with Alice’s daughter Hana and takes good care of her.

Ondaatje is a brilliant writer; he uses lots of imagery, and describes each moment so well that you believe you are living the novel. From when the nun falls off the bridge (“The Bridge”) to when Caravaggio was “painted… covering his hands and boots and hair with blue” (180), the reader is engaged by Ondaatje’s writing, which is almost like an art form. My favourite aspect to In the Skin of a Lion was how Ondaatje would have each character reappear in a different situation. I always thought that we would never hear of the character again, and then later on in the novel, they would reappear, whether they come back as a baker or even an actress. Patrick starts off as a young boy, and then returns as an adult moving to Toronto, beginning his work as a searcher. Nicholas Temelcoff is introduced as an immigrant worker on the bridge, and shows up later on as a baker. Alice Gull is one of the nuns on the bridge, and then becomes an actress, which is how she ends up running into Patrick. The reappearance of characters engaged me as a reader, and I enjoyed learning about where these characters were later on in life, and how they had evolved. The interactions with the characters in In the Skin of a Lion is very important, because it helped to evolve and shape these characters into who they have become.


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